Meghan Jones, Chair of the Digital Communications Committee of SLA Europe, won the very prestigious 2014 SLA Conference Scholar award sponsored by LexisNexis. This award enabled Meghan to attend the SLA annual conference for the first time, which this year was in Vancouver, Canada. Meghan gives us her impressions of the conference, provides some advice for professionals considering switching sectors, and tells us about some of the benefits of volunteering.
Can you tell us a bit about your background? How did you first become involved in the information profession?
Originally, I was an IT person! My original degree was in web content management and I worked (and still do as a side project) as a web developer and programmer but as it got closer to graduation, the less I wanted to keep working in that environment. I contemplated converting my degree to a law degree (one third of my degree was law related – IPR etc. and that still remains a personal interest) but after talking to my lecturers (we had some crossover with the library degrees at MMU), I started applying to graduate traineeships to see how I felt about librarianship. I became one of the two grad trainees at The Honourable Society of Gray’s Inn in 2006 and swiftly decided that I actually quite liked this librarianship lark, so started my MSc in 2007 and here I am.
Oh, let’s see. My grad traineeship was at one of the Inns of Court and after that while studying, I held a series of part time legal sector jobs at the same time, including the part-time/solo librarian for 8 New Square chambers (they are an IPR chambers, incidentally), a Knowledge Management assistant for Lawrence Graham, evening assistant at Gray’s Inn, a front half administrator for Nature and then as I finished lectures, the full time solo librarian for an American law firm (Gibson Dunn and Crutcher), which actually came about because I was their temp looseleafer (20 hours of looseleafing a week!) before their librarian went on maternity.
After I graduated, I became part of the systems librarian team at The King’s Fund (health and social care think tank) and then part of the global KM team at Arup (engineering) before accepting a permanent position at the University of Brighton, where I am back in systems again. I like to think I’m playing a long running game of Library Sector bingo!
What advice would you give to someone considering changing sectors?
Go for it! As a librarian, most of your skills really are transferable and as long as you’re flexible and willing to ask for help when you need it, you’ll do fine! Even though I was on the systems team at The King’s Fund, I still did enquiry shifts despite never working in the health sector before and really, it was just a case of learning what the go-to databases and journals were or applying a bit of logic as to which organisation would have what statistics etc. I had to do that when I started in law and it is just something you keep learning as you go.
Can you tell us why you first became a member of SLA and how you benefit from it?
I joined SLA in 2010, after applying for an ECCA. I wasn’t successful but I soon got lured on to the Digicomms committee (I think they said there was candy…) and I haven’t looked back. It’s given me a lot of useful contacts; I particularly like being a member of the academic division because I can reach the knowledge of a bunch of academic librarians from across the world. Plus, with my work as Digicomms Chair, I get to a lot of behind the scenes work on things like vendor relations and sponsorships, which are excellent learning experiences.
I’ve volunteered for all of the professional organisations I’ve joined – BIALL, CILIP, SLA – and I really would recommend it, you learn so much and you make some many useful connections with other information professionals.
What did you most enjoy about the conference?
Oddly enough, the sheer size! There were so many sessions but the culture of the conference is very much in favour of wandering in and out (quietly, of course!) so I actually saw quite a lot of interesting sessions. Also, excellent wifi and an electronics charging zone! The location didn’t hurt either!
Can you tell us about your favourite conference session?
The session on finding people via social Media! Eyeopening and slightly terrifying! The speaker worked for Toddington International on their social media intelligence side and it was fascinating to learn how they assist with police operations etc. The number one take away for me was: Never Use Location Services! Also, that other people are the weak links when it comes to finding information because while you can control what you have put online, you can’t necessarily do that with what others do that involves you.
Also, people put some stupid things on the internet! Like a list of crimes they committed during the Stanley Cup riots a couple years ago. On Facebook. With their name and picture and all sorts of lovely identifying information! Needless to say, they served some time!
How do you think this award will change your professional career?
It is hard to say! I mean, it has certainly allowed me to undertake some major CPD by attending the conference and it has definitely gone on my CV and my work certainly is proud but ultimately, it really is more of a personal benefit, I think. It has given me a better baseline level of confidence for applying for other awards in the future (top tip! Don’t be humble – I really do have to thank the lovely people who looked over my application and sent it back with notes that said things like “big your self up more here!” again, for approximately the millionth time. Thanks, Marie, Sam and Laura!). It’s also just nice to have hard work rewarded, and that’s always an ego-boost!
As Chair of the Digicomms committee for SLA Europe, what are your plans for the coming year?
A new website! We’re hard at work on a new version of the site, which we hope will help meet the expectations of our members. Otherwise, lots of plans for content that helps connect us more to the wider organisation and just generally continuing to provide information that people find useful. We’ve got some good podcast episodes lined up and hope to continue to provide those on a regular basis!